Globalization has brought the most advanced trading networks the world has seen, with the biggest, fastest vessels, robot-operated ports and vast computer databases tracking cargoes. But it all still relies on millions and millions of paper documents.
That last throwback to 19th century trade is about to fall. A P Moeller-Maersk A/S and other container shipping lines have teamed up with technology companies to upgrade the world’s most complex logistics network.
Shipping is starting to look at blockchain – a decentralised system to ensure consensus and data-authenticity that was originally developed for bitcoin transactions. Although the technology is still in its early days, it could be harnessed by the shipping industry in various ways and revolutionise how trade is performed. Maersk and IBM have already launched blockchain-based trade platforms and other companies are following.
Cloud technology is having a significant impact on the way shipping companies operate. The benefits include ease of data access, the availability of information regardless of time or location, as well as the reduction of data silos. Additionally, the cloud makes it much easier for companies to integrate their systems and processes.
One of the core benefits is improving communication between staff at land and sea, so whether that’s crew planning, the execution of payroll or performance reviews of seamen, the digital data is always up-to-date and available where it is needed.
Cloud-based technology is also simplifying processes such as purchasing and stock planning, as well as helping companies comply with regulations more easily and mitigating the risks of fines.
Augmented Reality (AR)
AR has multiple uses including the ability to connect employees in different global locations, deliver training and education or for companies to use the technology to increase the efficiency of product repairs or do demonstrations.
The possibilities in the shipping industry are endless and include pinpointing repairs, carrying out ship inspections and holding meetings – virtually, using specially developed AR devices. Whilst it’s likely to be two to five years until AR devices are rolled out across the shipping industry, we believe this technology will transform how the industry operates.
Rolls Royce last year announced it was joining forces with Google Cloud to develop Rolls-Royce’s intelligent awareness software, which is already in use on ships today and will play a central role in the company’s drive towards autonomous vessels. They plan to have a fully autonomous ship at sea by 2020.
Alexander Buchmann, Managing Director of Hanseaticsoft GmbH, adds, “There is huge technology innovation taking place in the shipping industry. Whilst some technologies may be a long way off becoming mainstream it’s evident that technology will help shipping companies stay competitive in increasingly challenging economic times.”
Small and medium-size businesses that have struggled for equal footing in the global economy are increasingly looking to cross-border trade for growth, seeing technology as way past obstacles in shipping and compliance, according to new research from Shipa Freight.
The Way Ahead:
Shipping firms based in emerging markets are finding export regulations particularly challenging: 67 per cent identify export regulations as a difficult issue, compared with just 44 per cent of SMEs based in mature European markets. Seventy-nine per cent of exporters from India, China and Indonesia say they find it challenging to penetrate markets in Europe.
Companies that view the UK as one of their top export markets are looking elsewhere because of Brexit. Seventy-three percent say Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has prompted them to prioritise trade with other European countries. 60 per cent of UK SMEs that export and 52 per cent of UK SMEs that import say that leaving the EU Single Market would be “disastrous” for them.
The shipping companies clearly see technology as a way to close the gap with bigger competitors, cope with documentation requirements and get quick access to competitive shipping options. 86 per cent say that tech is “levelling the playing field” for shipowners to operate globally; 89 per cent believe technology is transforming the logistics industry.
(References: Source: Economic Times, Trade Arabia, Alexander Buchmann, Managing Director of Hanseaticsoft GmbH, Hellenic Shipping News)
Sea News Feature, May 11